תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

my at:

vour of the cause I am pleading. These things are forex told in the scriptures. By these things Satan is eadeavouring to support bis own kingdom, as we may reasosonably expect he would do. He knows that he is most likely to play the furest game, when he transforms himself into an angel of light. And these false appearances serve for a foil, to discover the greatest lustre in a true and real work of divine grace.

The only objection against all this, which I can foresee, is, that I am philosophizing upon the golden tooth, and that the persons I am characterizing, exilt no where, save in my descriptions of them. But I need add no more to what I have said

upon this already, than testation, that I have the comfort of an inward and intimate acquaintance with confiderable numbers of such as those whom I have described. And if you, Sir, would seek out such for your chosen companions, your objections would die of themselves ; and the argument I have: infifted upon, would appear in its proper light and strengti,

I know not what more can be needful to be added upon this subject, but my hearty prayers, that the Spirit of truth would lead us both into all truth ; and that we may know by sensible experience what is the hope of Christ's calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inhsritance in the saints, which has been juftly, tho' but weakly and very imperfectly represented, in these lets ters, from

Sir,

Yours, co

LETTER VII. Wherein the doctrine of GOD's

SOVEREIGN Grace is vindicated ; and some EXCEPTIONS against it confidered and an fwered.

SIR,

[ocr errors]

you have

OU cannot imagine how much comfort

ministred to me by your last. I greatly rejoice to hear, that the more strictly you examine the cause, the

greater evidence you find of the undoubted truth and

[ocr errors]

• certainty of the Christian religion:* Bue that you • are filled with confusion, to think how long you have "lived at a distance from that blefled Saviour, who has • wrought out such a glorious redemption for us.' And I am not at all farprised, to hear you complain, that

you cannot entertain clear apprehenfions of my dif. • courfe of experimental religion : that though your • last objections are filenced, there are others which fill

your mind with greater difficulty ; and are of much

greater importance, if I have given you a juft view • of the case. And that you cannot tell how you can

ever be brought to a feeling fenfe of the doctrines of • sovereign grace, which I fo much infist on, while they

appear to you fo inconsistent with truth, and fo unrea• fonable.' 'I am not (I fay) surprifed at this ; for we are naturally prejudiced against these doctrines; ad are not easily brought to receive them, by reason of the ftrong bias there is upon our minds to the contrary principles. I shall therefore endeavour to consider your several objections; and how strong and plausible foever they may appear, I do not defpair of giving you fa:isfaction.

You object, that if we are of ourfelves capable of • no qualifying condirions for the divine favour, or (to • use my own words) if we must feel that we lie at mer. cy,

and that all our own refuges, and all our endeavours in our own strength to relieve our diftrefled o fouls, are fruitlels and vain, you cannot tell to what • purpose any of our endeavours are; or what good it • will do us to ufe any means at all for our salvation.'

In order to a clear folution of this difficulty, it seems Beedful to convince you, that this lost, impotent, deplorable state, is the cafe in fact of every worenewed finner, whatever objections we may frame in our minds against it: and therefore it is neceitary, that he should fenfibly perceive the case to be as it truly is. And then, it will be proper to shew you, that the confequence you draw. from this doctrine is unjuft; and even directly contrary to the improvement you ought to make of it.

I begin with the first of thefe: and thall endeavour to convince you that man is indeed in fuch a lort and helpkels state, that he lies at mere mercy; and cannot bring

himself into a claim to the divine favour, by any power or ability of his own. I fhalf not run into the scholastick controverfies and fubtile distinctions, with which this doctrine has been clouded by many of our wrangling disputers: but shall endeavour to set it in the most plain, easy, and practical light, that I am able.

I think, you must readily grant, that you cannot make an atonement for your fins, by any performances within your power. You are, Sir, to confider yourself as a finwer, as a criminal and delinquent in the fight of God. Your nature is corrupt and defiled. Your actual transgreffions of the law of God' have been very numerous ; and perhaps fome of them attended with special aggra. rations. All your fins are directly repugnant to the perfections of the divine nature; and consequently offensive to a pure and holy God. And what greatly increases the difficulty and danger of your case, is, that you are still continuing to act contrary to God in all you do, while your nature is unrenewed; and while you are without a principle of love to God. (I am fure, you will partion this freedom; for it is neceffary you should know the diseafe, in order to the cure ) Judge then yourself, whether it can be suppołed, that an omniscient heart-searching God can be pleased with any, even the molt devout of yoor overt actions, when he knows that your heart is estranged from him, and your nature has no conformity to him ; but your affections are glewed

feveral idols. How then can you be reconciled to God, by virtue of your performances and attainments? Can you pay ten thoufand talerts, with less than nothing ? Can you please God by offending him, as you do by the obliquity of all your duties, the defects of devotions, and the finful affections from whence they all flow? Or can you have thofe unworthy thoughts of an infinite, unchangeable God, as to hope you can make fuch impreffons upon his affe&tions, by acknowledging your offences, and imploring his mercy, as to excite his compaflion and fympathy; and to make your impure and unholy

nature agreeable to his infinite purity and holiness? Can your insincere and hypocritical duties (for fuch they are all at best, while they proceed from an unfanctified heart) bring the glorious God to take

to your

your best

complacency in what is directly contrary to his own nature ? You cannot but fee, that these proposals are molt unreasonable and absurd. One of thele things must certainly be true ; either first, that you have naturally, whilft in an unrenewed state, a principle of holiness and love to God: or secondly, that works flowing from an impure fountain, and from a principle of opposition and alienation to God, are yet pleasing to God, will serve to appease him, and will entitle you to his favour: or thirdly, that you cannot, by any thing vou do, have a claim to God's favour, until your nature is renewed, and you can act from a principle of holiness and love to God. I think every man's experience will confute the first of these, who gives any attention at all to the natural dif. positions of his own soul : the second is altogether inconsistent both with the nature of things and with the na: ture of an infinitely pure and holy God: and therefore the third is necessarily true. It won't at all help the case, to alledge in bar of what is here said, that Christ Jesus has made

an atonement for us. For what is that to you, while

you

remain without an interest in him ?. Did Christ purchase for you a capacity to make an atonement for yourself? Did he die, that God might be, pleafsed with what is contrary to his own nature; and paci, fied with such duties as can be no better than impure streams from a corrupt fountain ?

Let reason sit judge in the case before us, and you must allow

your

case to be as I have described it. And it is equally evident, that you have no power to change your own heart, and to produce in yourself a new prin, ciple of love to God and conformity to him, by any, endeavours of your own. It is visible from what has been already said, that our hearts and affections must be re, newed and sanctified, before either our persons or services can be acceptable in the fight of God. And which way can this be compaffed? If you take up resolutions, these will no longer stand you in stead than the principle of fear, from which they proceed, is kept in action. If you execute these resolutions in fome external reforma: tions, this is but lopping off the branches, while the Rock and the root of the free are still alive ; the affections and difpofitions of the foul being still the fame. If by

fear, or other felfish motives, you fomething restrain the prefent more fensible exercife of yoor finful appetites or paffions, this is but damming up the stream, and forcing it into anocher channel; pull down the dam, and it will run where it did before. Certain it is, that every man naturally loves the world, and the things of the world, the objects of his fenfual appetites; and loves his lufts and idols, more than God, and it is equally cere tain, that whatever restraints he may fometimes put upon these difpofitions, an omnifcient ere beholds the fame principle in him notwithstanding: and consequently he can never please God, till there

be in this refpect a real and thorough change wrought in all the powers of his foul ; fuch a change as the fcriptures describe by a tranflation from darkness unto light, from death to life, and from the power of Satan unto God. And to suppose, chat any but he who forat gave being to our fouls, can give them a new being in all spiritual and moral re. fpects; and make their dispositions, appetites, pashons, contemplations, desires, and delightsy not only differing from, but directly and lastingly contrary to what they were, is to ascribe to the creatore what is the peculiar property and prerogative of the glorious God himfelf

. Do you (Sir) bat make the trial, and you will find, after all your endeavours, that the violation of your promises and resolutions, the deadness and hypocrisy of your duties, the prevalence of your fino, and the continued ef. trangement of your affections from God and godliness, will give you more fensible conviction, than any methods of reafoning can do, that there is a greater power needful than your own, to make you a new creature.

It must therefore neceffarily follow, that there is no. thing you are able to do, can give you a claim to the re newing influences of the Holy Spirit. If any thing you can do, can give you a claim to the renewing and fanc tifying influences of the divine grace, your claim must be either from merit or promise. Not of merit ; when you can't of yourfelf fo much as leave off finning, and chereby ronning further into debt to the justice of God; and chis, even in and by the best of your duties. Your bighest attainments therefore can merit nothing but the divine displeasure. Not of promise ; for where I be.

« הקודםהמשך »